Danish Year 4 English

I have three children in the Danish public education system. Having moved here when they were at the start of Years 3, 6, and 8, they are now learning English as a foreign language. Of course, having been brought up in Scotland, they are all native English speakers, so are hypersensitive to errors made by their teachers, in their text books and in other teaching material.

As very few teachers are superhuman, I fully expect them to make the odd mistake, just as I would if I were teaching one of the modern languages I studied at university, or indeed if I were teaching Danish in a Scottish school. Errors in text books and teaching material, however, are inexcusable. Text books should either (and preferably) be written from start to finish by a native speaker of one variety of English, or (at the very least) be proofread or copy-edited by a native. Otherwise the result is a potentially capable English teacher doubting their own knowledge and correcting themselves, because after all you expect the book to be accurate, and worse still the whole class learning the error verbatim. Here is one such example brought home by my youngest daughter this week. This is taken from a prescribed text book, not made by the teacher…

As we reach the waiter’s second line in this little role play, I imagine the vast majority of readers with a reasonable level of English are surprised. As the role play is aimed at younger children with limited vocabulary, the writer does not have huge scope, but this is not just unnatural English, this is completely wrong, a back translation from many European languages I speak and a very common error among non-natives. It should, of course, read But there are only two of you. In fact, the sentence You are only two can only ever mean You are only two years old!

If I were being pedantic, I would also edit the next two sentences which also seem a bit stilted. So my text might end up reading:

Waiter: Hello

Guest 1: We would like a table for four, please.

Waiter: But there are only two of you.

Guest 1: Yes, we are meeting friends.

Waiter: Is this table ok?

Guest 2: Yes, thank you.

Had the publisher had an English native read the very simple conversation over, it would be correct, but as I often find here, the assumption is that such simple English does not need to be checked, so now at least the 24 other children in my daughter’s class have learnt a mistake, and of course the teacher is more likely to believe the book than my child when she points the error out to her, as the assumption is that a printed textbook outranks a child, English native or not!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *